Discover the medieval buildings, cobbled streets and impressive city walls on this walking tour of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, one of the top stops on the Romantic Road.
This walk starts from Röderturm, a large tower at the eastern edge of the town’s historic walls. There are several car parks (P4, P5) near here, plus Rothenburg Train Station is just a few minutes walk away. It’s 1-3 hours from Würzburg, Nuremberg, Augsburg or Munich on the train. From Munich, you can also go on guided day trips by bus*.
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Tips for Rothenburg ob der Tauber Walking Tour
- It can be quite touristy, especially in summer, but it’s definitely worth it. Tourists tend to leave in the evening.
- Spending a night in Rothenburg is worthwhile since the buildings are elegantly lit and the tourists have mainly disappeared.
- There’s a very cute Christmas Market here in December on the market square.
- You must try Schneeballen – dough balls coated in sugar, chocolate and more – when in town.
- Why not also explore the cute town of Donauwörth, or the historic city of Nuremberg, both easily reachable on the train.
- Check out other walks on our Germany Hiking Page.
Top Sights in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
On this self-guided walking tour you’ll see the main sites and attractions of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. One to two days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Rothenburg. Try and stay for the night, as the town is at its best in the early evening and mornings.
- Alt-Rothenburger Handwerkerhaus
- Rothenburg Marktplatz
- Rothenburg Museum
- German Christmas Museum
- Medieval Crime Museum
- Das Plönlein
- Spital Bastion
- Town Walls
- Town Valley Walk
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Walking Tour Route
This walking tour starts from the Röderturm. It heads first into Rothenburg Altstadt* before heading around the medieval city walls An extension heads across the Tauber River Valley for great views back to Rothenburg and of the historic Double Decker bridge.
The Röderturm* is a grand old entrance to Rothenburg. It’s a beautifully preserved and well-fortified gate to the city leading through the town walls and into the heart of the medieval town itself.
Directions: Head through Röderturm and into the old town along Rödergasse street.
The Markusturm is a rather beautiful inner city gate, unusual for its location right in the middle of town rather than along the city walls. Several historic, half-timbered buildings and cute streets surround the tower. There’s a stork’s nest at the top of this tower which may be occupied in summer!
Directions: Briefly head left down the quiet street just before the tower. Shortly on your left you’ll see the next stop.
3. Alt-Rothenburger Handwerkerhaus
Key Information: Open Apr-Oct 11-3pm, closed Mondays. Open Dec 2-4pm every day. Entry is €3.
The Alt-Rothenburger Handwerkerhaus* is a living museum where craftsmen and women have made their living making and selling goods for over 700 years. In the museum you can take a peak into what life has been like for craftspeople for over 1000 years, and there are still craftspeople working here today
Directions: Continue down the main street and you’ll soon find the main square.
The Marktplatz* is the main square and lies at the heart of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It’s surrounded by many colourful half-timbered houses such as the Marien Apotheke, and the grand Town Hall (Rathaus). You can go up the tower in the Town Hall (for a fee) for stunning views over town the the Tauber River Valley below. The tourist information is in the white building with the clocktower if you want a paper map of the town or information about the surrounding area.
Directions: Leave the square along the street to the right and you’ll find the large church.
Key Information: Open Mon-Sat 10-18 and Sun 11-18. The church is closed during mass. Entry to the church is €3.50. Audio guide an extra €2.
Jakobskirche* is a beautiful Gothic church and the main church in town. It’s also the only church with an admission fee. The most famous object in the church is the Heilig Blut Alter (Sacred Blood Alter) carved by mastercraftsman Tilman Riemenschneider. You’ll find this artwork behind the organ. Note the cross above the Last Supper, which apparently contains a holy relic – three drops of the blood of Christ. Don’t forget to also check out the beautiful stained glass windows. If you listen to the audio guide, the art and history section is better than that about spirituality.
Directions: Go through the tunnel beneath the church and take the first left. The museum is up the street to your right.
6. Rothenburg Museum
Key Information: Open Apr-Oct: 9.30am – 5.30pm, Nov-Mar: 1-4pm. Tickets are €5.
The Rothenburg Museum (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*), also known as the Reichsstadt Museum, contains the oldest convent kitchen in Germany, plus weapons and armour, and the museum is in a former Convent/Dominican Monastery. There’s a barrel outside the entrance – where nuns gave sustenance to the poor, and destitute women left their babies if they couldn’t afford them. The displays are well presented and you could spend a couple of hours looking around the museum.
Directions: Head through the gate to the left of the museum and into the Kloster Gardens. These are small but a lovely, relaxing place for a break. Walk through the gardens and leave via the gate to the left. Turn left on the road, then left again to the large tower.
History of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber was almost destroyed in the 30 Years War (1618-1648) by the Catholics, led by General Tilly. It was saved when the townspeople gave the General a lot of money. But if you want a more romantic story, General Tilly challenged the Mayor to down three liters of wine. If the Mayor succeeded, the General would leave the town in peace. The Mayor somehow downed the wine and the town was saved.
The Burgtor is an impressive gateway between the old town and the castle gardens. The gardens are lit atmospherically after dark, as is the gate.
Directions: Walk through the tower, turn left, left and left again back to the front of the tower and Herrngasse street. You’ll explore the castle gardens further when walking around the town walls.
Herrngasse is a wide road lined by stately buildings, more recent than some of the oldest buildings in town. The name comes from the Herren, or gentlemen (rich merchants) who lived along this street in Medieval times.
Directions: Walk along the street and you’ll see the famous Christmas shop on your right.
9. German Christmas Museum
Key Information: Open Apr-Dec: 10am – 5pm. The shop is free to look around, but tickets to the museum are €5.
The Christmas Museum (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*), or Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum, is within a huge Christmas shop called Käthe Wolhlfahrt Weihnachtsdorf. In the museum, you can learn about the history of Christmas and its traditions plus see Christmas decorations from different time periods. Even if you don’t visit the museum, it’s worth going into the store where you’ll be transported to a winter wonderland of Christmas! You can also buy many high-quality Christmas decorations here, if you feel the need.
Directions: Head through the square and take a right on the main street.
Schmiedgasse* is a long, cobbled street in town full of character. Quaint shops, bakeries, cafes and restaurants line this street. Schneidgasse is a great place to try Schneeballen – a specialty of Rothenburg. Schneeballen are large dough balls covered in any variety of toppings. The original ones are just dusted with powdered sugar, and these can be a little boring. Opt for the exciting flavours instead!
Directions: Walk down the first street on your right and pass the church to visit the next museum.
11. Medieval Crime Museum
Key Information: Open Apr-Oct: 10am – 6pm, Nov-Mar: 1-4pm, with longer hours in December. Tickets cost €9/4.50 for adults/children.
The Medieval Crime Museum (Website, Tripadvisor Reviews*) is the most popular museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It’s about criminals and how they were treated in the Middle Ages. Mostly they were tortured and you can see all the torture instruments in this interesting museum. You’ll also find out about the justice system during the Middle Ages and find many unusual and intriguing exhibits.
Directions: Head back to Schneidgasse and continue down the street.
12. Das Plönlein
Das Plönlein is the most photographed spot in Rothenburg and perhaps the whole of Germany! You’ll see it on the front of many travel guides and brochures. The photo of Das Plönlein has become the symbol of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and it’s very cute indeed. Try and arrive early or late to beat the crowds, though it can also be surprisingly quiet in the peak hours of the day.
Directions: Walk onwards down the main street to the large gate at the end.
13. Spital Bastion
The Spital Bastion* is a fortress-like gate in the town walls, added in the 16th century. It’s the best town gate because it’s more of a mini fortress in itself, and you can walk through it. For now, head up the steps to the left of the gate to get onto the town walls. You’ll return here after a loop of the walls and can more fully explore the Bastion.
Directions: Climb the steps to the walls and turn left to start an anti-clockwise loop of the old town.
14. Town Walls
You can walk 4 km all the way around the town walls*. The first half is the most complete and there are several towers to see on the way. There are also great views across the rooftops of town, and of several lovely buildings. One of these is Gerlachschmiede*, a beautiful red-and-white half-timbered building.
After this building, you’ll reach Röderturm, where you started this walking tour of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. You can go up the tower itself (for a small fee) to see the views, but the opening hours are rather sporadic. The next larger tower you’ll come across is Kingertour*, at the northwest corner of town.
You have to leave the walls at Kingertour. If you head through the tower, you’ll come to St. Wolfgang’s Chuch, connected to the defensive Kingertour Bastion. To continue the walk around the walls, take the left on the outer side of the dry moat, signposted ‘Detwang’. Continue walking on this path as it parallels the city walls. You’ll pass a few more towers, then can enter the town again near the Burgtor.
Exploring the Castle Gardens
You’ll now be in the Burggarten*, or Castle Gardens. This park covers a promontory with views over the River Tauber Valley. Head around the edge of the park and back towards the town, where you’ll have some great views. Just after the little chapel, take the right heading downhill and back out of the Medieval Walls.
Strolling through the Vineyards
Turn left to walk through the sloping vineyards, with more great views of the Tauber Valley below and the old town above. Keep on going at roughly the same height, and eventually you’ll reach a tower in the walls on your left. You can take a peek inside the gate, but you can’t walk along the walls for any distance here. Instead, continue to the right and you’ll soon reach the next tower, Kalkturm.
Head through the tower and take a short moment to explore the peaceful courtyard, full of large old farming and milling buildings. When you’re ready, head up the steps and back onto the walls. There’s a down and up some steps, then along to the next tower. Descend this tower to walk through the moat.
Back to Spitalturm
You’re almost at the end of the town walls walk, and soon you’ll be at the base of the grand Spitalturm. Head up the stairs, and into the round fortress itself. You can walk through here all the way around to the other side. When you leave the building, turn right back along the moat then up the stairs to your left. Cross over the wooden bridge and you’ll be back at the end of the long street.
Directions: Head up the street to return to the main square. From here, explore the town centre further, go on the Tauber Valley Walk (see below) or make this the end of the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Walking Tour.
15. Tauber Valley Walk
If you still have the energy, a walk through the Tauber Valley is a lovely way to end your tour of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. You can start this walk either from the Spitalturm, or beyond Jacobskirche at the other end of town.
On this peaceful walk you’ll stroll along the River Tauber, see the funny Topplerschlösschen, and walk across the Doppelbrücke (double bridge). There are great views from the bridge of Rothenburg ob der Tauber above, perched at the top of the cliffs.
Tours of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
If you want to go on a guided tour of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, there are tours from the tourist office. These are daily, normally at 2pm in English, and last around 90 minutes. In the evening, a night watchman (Nachtwächter) leads a fun tour of the old town, starting at 8pm from the Rathaus. If you’re visiting from Munich, you can also take a guided day trip to Rothenburg*.
Best Places to stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
There are plenty of accommodation options in Rothenburg. They tend to get full in summer, especially on weekends, so book in advance as soon as you know you’re going. It’s definitely worth spending a night in Rothenburg as the town quietens down in the evening when many of the tourists have left. Additionally, the town looks rather beautiful lit by the street lamps.
- Hotel Reichs-Küchenmeister*: This historic hotel right in the centre of town, with lovely rooms, a great breakfast and dining rooms full of character.
- Hotel Rothenburger Hof*: A great value hotel just opposite the train station, 10 minutes walk from the old town. Free parking and clean rooms make this a great choice for budget travelers.
- Hotel Zum Breiterle*: Another historic hotel inside the city walls, this good value hotel has everything you need to enjoy your stay in town.
- Youth Hostel Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber*: From twin rooms with private bathrooms to cheaper dormitories, you can’t stay in a more historic building than this. It’s located in the Rossmühle, a huge old mill and a landmark in town.
For more walking tours and hikes in Germany, see our Germany hiking page.
FAQS – Rothenburg ob der Tauber Walking Tour
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is known for its Medieval town centre and well-preserved defensive walls and towers. It’s also known as one of the best towns to visit in Germany.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber means ‘Red Castle above the Tauber River’.
The best thing to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a walking tour through the old centre and along the well-preserved city walls.
You’ll need at least one day to explore Rothenburg ob der Tauber, or more if you want to visit more than one of the museums. Rothenburg is best experienced in the early mornings or evenings when most of the tourists have left, so spending a night in town is a great idea.